Russian law enforcement searched the Moscow offices of opposition politicians a day before they were due to hold an unauthorized rally to demand free and fair elections and protest a decision by the Moscow Election Committee to reject the registration of independent candidates for the September city council elections.
Members of the Investigative Committee combed the campaign headquarters of city council candidates Ivan Zhdannov and Lyubov Sobol, Zhdannov said in a post on Twitter July 26.
Law enforcement also showed up at the campaign headquarters of another city council candidate, Ilya Yashin.
Candidate Konstantin Yankauskas said police arrived at his parent's house to search as well.
"They don’t even try to hide that this criminal case is politically motivated," Yashin said on Twitter. "It is brazen and unlawful pressure on the opposition in the peak of an election campaign."
Kira Yarmysh, a spokeswoman for jailed opposition figure Aleksei Navalny, wrote on Twitter that the searches were an effort by police to "intimidate and frighten people so that when they read all the stories about questionings and arrests, they become too frightened to leave their homes."
The searches on the evening of July 26 are the latest in a series of police actions over the past week against independent candidates seeking to run in September against pro-government politicians for Moscow Duma seats.
A court on July 24 sentenced Navalny to 30 days behind bars, preventing the charismatic leader from attending the July 27 rally.
Navalny helped lead a protest on July 20 that attracted about 20,000 people, which he called the biggest political rally since 2012.
Later that evening, police searched the apartments of independent candidate Dmitry Gudkov and summoned other candidates to appear the following morning for questioning.
Amnesty International on July 25 called those actions an "open and shameless attempt" to intimidate the opposition ahead of September’s parliamentary elections in Moscow.
The Moscow Election Commission excluded the opposition candidates from the September race on the grounds that they submitted too many invalid or false signatures of support. Each candidate had to submit about 5,000 signatures in order to be eligible to run.
Sobol and other candidates accused the commission and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin of seeking to bar them from the election.
The 45 members of the Moscow Duma can propose legislation as well as inspect how the city's $43 billion budget is spent.